The three-day hiatus for the New York Mets has arrived in the form of the Major League Baseball All-Star break. For players, it gives them a nice breather in a marathon season. For fans, it gives us a chance to watch the best (or at least some of the best) in action in a more non-formal way. At just beyond the halfway mark of the season, the Mets have endured a season with some lows, but altogether it has been a watchable season -- and that's more than anyone expected with the bumps and bruises (and financial turmoil) along the way.
Checking The Standings
At 46-45, the Mets have played better baseball than any expert could have imagined considering what's gone on. The only problem for them is that they play in the toughest division in the National League. The Philadelphia Phillies possess the best record in baseball, thus the Mets are 11 games out of first place. The Atlanta Braves also have one of the better records in baseball, which correlates to the second best in the NL, and the Mets are 7.5 behind them for the Wild Card. Despite the solid play from New York, they just aren't at the level of the league's best, plain and simple.
NL East Standings
If I polled Mets fans and they were truthful, I guarantee that a very low percentage of them even knew who Turner was in spring training. The Mets' front office was high on Rule IV pick Brad Emaus heading into this season, but he didn't show anything and was released in mid-April. Turner, basically a career minor league afterthought up to this point, gets his shot and absolutely demolishes it. Sure, he's a bit exposed now getting regular playing time. But in 61 games, he's given the Mets very serviceable producting from their second base spot: two home runs, 35 RBI and a .268/.331/.364 line. It's not something the Mets will bank on for the future, but Turner at least has carved up a utility role in the major leagues.
Sure, unheralded rookie Dillon Gee gets the individual nod with his 3.76 ERA, 1.32 WHIP in 14 games started and his 8-3 record. But besides Mike Pelfrey who has struggled for a good part of this year, this staff has been steady. Chris Capuano is 8-8 on the year, with a 4.12 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but has kept the Mets in most of the games he's started. R.A. Dickey has been solid again, posting a 4-7 record but 3.61 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. To me, though, Jonathan Niese has risen above the rest. The 24-year-old has quite frankly been the best pitcher on the staff this year, and has really taken a step forward in his development. He has an 8-7 record with a 3.88 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, but has increased his strikeout rate to close to 7.5 on the year. He has been snakebitten a bit by bad luck, but has only given up more than three earned runs four times this season. He's done it once in his past 11 starts.
Did anybody even think Beltran would play this season? After 91 games, the Mets' right fielder has seamlessly made the transition to right field and he's played in a team-leading 89 games. He's also an All-Star. We knew Jose Reyes had All-Star -type talent, but to expect the Beltran (almost) of old was unexpected. He has 13 home runs, 58 RBI and a .285/.377.503 line this year, and leads the league with 28 doubles. Sad thing is, he may not be on the Mets for much longer.
While it doesn't rival his cross-town rival, Reyes' first half was truly spectacular. There is nothing else to say but that without Reyes setting the table at a worldly level, the Mets would probably be floundering in last place. Sure, he hit the DL, but Reyes' line speaks for itself: .354/.398/.529 to go along with 22 doubles, 15 triples, three home runs, 32 RBI and 30 steals. There's no question he's been the best player in the NL thus far.
Pelfrey was supposed to be the constant in a rotation that had numerous question marks this year. The 27-year-old was also tabbed the No. 1 starter. Suffice to say, he's been far from that this season, witha 5-8 record and 4.55 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. He's pitched better lately but he's been far too inconsistent this season -- and part of that is due to a five percent decrease in his ground-ball rate, meaning his sinker has been much less effective this season.
This one's easy. When you're making $2 million a year or $16 million a year like Bay is, a .237/.320/.656 line with six home runs and 28 RBI is not what you want from your left fielder. Bay has had spurts of finding his old stroke -- and he's played better in the past few weeks, but the Mets need more from him because this contract is quickly becoming one of the worst in the game. Part of me thinks Bay still has it in him, but he's such a cerebral player that it gets into his head.
Terry Collins And Team's Overall Play
Let's not specifiy one player for this one because with all the injuries to impact, core players like David Wright, Ike Davis and Johan Santana (and now Reyes), the Mets are still one game over .500 when basically fielding a Triple-A infield. Some say that coach doesn't mean too much, but whether he does or not, Collins has the Mets playing every single night. The reason this team's watchable is because they don't give up. Who cares if the studs aren't in the lineup? These guys scratch and claw every night and it's been a pleasure to witness it.
Biggest Remaining Question Marks
Who Will Be Here At The End Of The Year?
I think it's a foregone conclusion that the team on July 12 will not be the same team that ends the season. With financial limitations and a number of players facing free agency, Alderson will be acting like a fantasy baseball manager over the next few weeks; he'll just have so many options on his plate, if he'd like. Veteran relievers like Jason Isringhausen, Tim Byrdak and Francisco Rodriguez could be gone. Beltran could be wearing another uniform in a month. There's a chance Reyes could too, but that's looking more doubtful by the day.
Most Likely To Be Dealt
To me, Beltran is a lock to be gone. Agent Scott Boras worked out a clause in his contract that Beltran would not be able to be offered arbitration this offseason if the Mets were to keep him. Thus, there is nothing for the Mets to gain by keeping him (besides his production this season). They can't get draft picks and there's no chance that they could go to arbitration and sign him for one year. He's currently earning $3 million a month ... and despite his production this year, the Mets will probably have to eat some money to move him.
Least Likely To Be Dealt
Reyes' injury and DL stint could be the best possible news for the Mets. First of all, it limits their trade possibilities because teams are well aware of the inherent risk of trading for Reyes and because he won't have a lot of "re-auditioning" time to prove he's healthy before the deadline. No. 2, it gives the Mets a chance to possibly swoop in and negotiate now (even though the shortstop has said he's against it) or put together a package in the offseason that (that could be tempered because of his injury history) is more comfortable for the Mets' price range.
No matter how well they've played for 91 games, the Mets should -- and will -- be sellers at the trade deadline. There's no doubt that Alderson will explore every trade avenue come July 31 and will pull the trigger if it gives the team payroll flexibility, while keeping the team's future in mind.